Mother's Day Messages
THE SPIRITUALITY OF A YOUNG MOTHER
When Pastor Glenn asked me to to speak today on the spirituality of being a mother, I was reminded of God’s timely sense of humor. That particular Friday was the end of a particularly rough week of parenting, with most days resulting in both my 2 year old son and I on the floor crying. Spiritual was the last word I would have used to describe motherhood.
When I was younger, I thought that motherhood was something that just came naturally - when a woman became a mom, she would gain these insights and instincts, knowing exactly what to do and when to do it. My own mother’s actions didn’t support my theory, however, and I grew up determined to prove to myself I was not like her. I would be a better mom than she was. I don’t recommend this being the basis for having a child, by the way.
I did follow in my mother’s footsteps in certain areas of my life. As some of you may remember from the cardboard testimonies a few months back, I am a recovering alcoholic and addict. 3 and a half years ago, when I first began my journey of recovery, was when my heart was really first opened to the idea that a relationship with God was still possible, though I was hesitant to believe it. I felt that I had sinned so greatly, had fallen so far down that even God couldn’t reach me. Then, at 6 months of soberiety, I became pregnant and came to know, and fully believe that God still loved me. When Sterling was born, and really for the first year of his life, I could see God in him everyday. He radiated with God’s love and grace, his innocence and sweet demeanor reminded me daily of God’s presence in my life.
Today, my son is 2…. Which brings me back to the fact that spiritual is not the first word that comes to mind when describing my role as his mother. Fearful, worrisome, guilty and shameful are the words I would choose to use. Every day I worry if I am doing all the right things as a mother, if I am doing more good than harm in his development, or if I am just grooming a future serial killer. I feel guilty for the days when all I have to give my son is love because I am too tired to chase him around or take him to the park. I feel shame for the moments that I lose my temper, and allow my frustrations to take over.
Mothering is hard. And every day, I feel like I’m failing at it. But in those brief moments, in between the rushing around, cooking, cleaning, and tantrums, when I am able to sit back and just allow my son to be 2 years old, and witness the miracle of his existence, I am reminded of God’s love and grace. Despite my imperfections, despite my flaws and screw ups, God chose me to be Sterling’s mom.
If there are any mothers here today who have felt like I do, who most days are just praying to make it to bed time, you are not alone. You are a good mother! You are doing a wonderful job with your children, whether parenting books or "experts" agree with your style of parenting or not. We are human, we are not perfect. We make, and will continue to make mistakes in our roles as mothers. Despite all of this, God loves us anyway.
TRIBUTE TO A GRANDMOTHER
My name is Jeff Corcoran, and to you, the 8:30 service, I am the person who stole Judy and Willard Becker from you. For 63 years, they attended the 8:30 service. In January 2015, when I wanted to return to church, I called up Grandma and asked what time she went to Maple Grove. She responded 8:30am. There was a pause. I asked if there was a later service. She informed me there was, and we’ve been attending the late service ever since.
Grandma likes to tell everyone that she switches services every 63 years, so you can look forward to her return to this service at this ungodly hour in 2078.
But in all seriousness, I’m here to talk about what led to that call in January 2015. I wasn’t raised Methodist, so the question naturally arises, why would I call Grandma about attending her church, a church that wasn’t even particularly close to where I was living at the time. The answer is rather simple: I was drawn to her inclusive, loving faith.
You see, I was raised in an exceptionally devout Catholic family. And although I have nothing but respect for the Catholic Church, if Catholicism were the only form of Christianity, I would probably still be wandering through a spiritual wilderness as either an atheist or an agnostic. I have a hard time accepting that the bulk of the 5 billion unbaptized, non-Christian individuals in this world are destined to an eternity in hell. This was always a sticking point for me, but it became even more of a sticking point when I married into a wonderful Hindu family.
Grandma Becker’s faith is different. She believes that God speaks to different people in different ways. In her view of the world, God is at the top of a mountain, and individuals from other faiths are just taking different paths to get there. To Grandma, all we need to know about God can be summed up in three words: “God is love.” These three words capture her entire belief system, and to her, to live as a Christian means to follow the law of love and love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no shortage of support for Grandma’s three-word philosophy in the Bible. In Matthew 22:37-39, we’re told that Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and your neighbor as yourself. The other two synoptic gospels, Mark and Luke, contain similar statements, and in John chapter 13, we’re told that Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment: to love another as he loved them. In Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:9, Paul tells us that the entire law is summed up in one commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Furthermore, Grandma does not just recite her three-word principle; she lives it. The love and peace of God permeate all of her relationships, and numerous people here at Maple Grove have told me that she’s touched their lives. Because of the strength and simplicity of her faith, her life is all but free from the anxiety that burdens the rest of us. Her house is blessed with an almost supernatural tranquility; it’s probably the best place in the world to take a nap.
What is more, to Grandma, when you go too far beyond this basic three-word principle, you often create problems. And I’m no church historian, but I think she might be right. Over the last two centuries, the Church has been ripped apart over issues like whether the Holy Spirit proceeds for both the Father and the Son rather than just the Father and whether Christians should practice infant or adult baptism.
Do these issues really matter? My opinion is that they don’t. Because I know what my Grandma taught me, which is that God is love. And there really isn’t any reason to make it more complicated than that.
THE MOTHER HEART OF GOD
When asked if I would be willing to speak on Mother’s Day about the Mother heart of God, I immediately responded with a very affirmative yes. My entire spiritual foundation is built upon the kindness, gentleness, patience and grace of God’s tender heart. Most of my spiritual growth has evolved from the emotional deficits within me. How that connects to what I’ve experienced about God’s compassionate heart will be explained as my story continues. I will digress briefly before explaining my experience.
While preparing for today’s talk, I did some research concerning what others have to say about the character traits that constitute an emotionally healthy, responsible and caring mom. Of course the Internet is full of all sorts of ideas. They range from: She does not neglect her children’s needs, views herself as a role model for her kids, supports her kids simply by being there, but also by using words as a form of encouragement, to letting her kids know she will always be there for them even when they are older.
Then I wondered what folks who are known as “experts” on parenting had to say.
In his book, Parenting from the Inside Out, Dr. Daniel Siegel states, “The way we communicate with our children has a profound impact on how they develop. Our ability to have sensitive, reciprocal communication nurtures a child’s sense of security, and these trusting secure relationships help children do well in many areas of their lives. It is through the sharing of feelings that we create meaningful connections.” Virginia Satir, author and social worker who is known as “The Mother of Family Therapy” states, “Every word, facial expression, gesture or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self worth.” She also reiterates, “So much is asked of parents and so little is given.” In thinking through preparation for today’s talk, a childhood experience came to my mind that I hadn’t thought about in years. I call those moments small miracles. When I was around 13 years old, my mother and I were asked to give the toast to mothers and daughters at our church’s Mother Daughter Banquet. I remember a few lines from a poem I read that was a part of my toast: An ideal Mother is devotion in a starched apron, (that was the 50’s when women starched everything and actually wore aprons), Truth with a Bible in her hand, Wisdom with a smile on her face and Love with an unselfish heart.
My Mother, who passed in 1994, struggled emotionally. She did an amazing job of caring for her family while living with huge amounts of emotional pain. In addition to managing her own issues, she had the trial of being married to a functional emotionally disturbed alcoholic man who was unfaithful to the marriage. He died at the age of 51 when I was 18 years old. She was often sad and frustrated by all that life required of her. These struggles sometimes prevented her from unintentionally being emotionally available to her family. As I reflect on her pain, I believe she had difficulty being a loving and nurturing presence to herself. Consequently, it was understandably very difficult for her to be that to her children. I came out of my home uncertain about my own value and worth and feeling very insecure about my place in life. I am not casting blame for the struggles I battled. I realized it was and is up to me as an adult to pursue healing and to take responsibility for my mental and spiritual growth.
When I was in my early thirties, I began to question the meaning and purpose of everything. It was a pivotal time of emotional pain and spiritual seeking. God provided answers as well as solutions for the emotional deficits that plagued my spirit. I felt very alone and forgotten. I read in I Peter 5:7 something that to me, reflected the gentle Mother heart of God, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” This scripture helped me realize that God wanted to carry my heartache because I am loved by Him. Author Wm. Paul Young is often quoted as saying, “God is especially fond of you.” Life did not as a child and sometimes now as an adult feel emotionally safe. I have come to understand from wise counselors that a chaotic home can be at the heart of an individual not feeling safe emotionally. God’s gentle Mother heart promises safety in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you, Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” That verse convinces me of the soothing nurturing heart of God that basically says I hold every part of your life. It communicates I will give you all you need and I am here to make it all okay. Isn’t that what every child of any age needs to hear? Psalm 27:10 also gives me an insight into God’s compassionate heart. “When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me.” Psalm 31:7 is an example of God caring about feelings. King David said to God, “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction, you have known the distress of my soul.” I love thinking about God creating me for himself. That is so unconditional, it is graceful and very opposite a performance based perspective. He loves me just because I was created. Sometimes I felt loved only if my behavior measured up to certain standards. There isn’t anything I want to do to intentionally displease God, knowing how unconditionally I am loved. My imperfection is covered in grace because He knows the motivation of my heart. Colossians 1:16 tells us, “Everything was created by him, everything in heaven and on earth, everything seen and unseen, including all forces and powers, and all rulers and authorities. All things were created by God’s Son, and everything was made for him.” Knowing God created me for himself gives me my true foundation and identity as a human being. Lastly, I will close with one of my favorite very meaningful Bible verses, Isaiah 49:14-16 – verses that were previously read this morning. I feel as though it beautifully depicts the tender and gentle Mother heart of God. Zion says, “The Lord has abandoned me; the Lord has forgotten me!” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”